Essentials of Censorship Breaking
These are a few good words for you who are beginning to take action to free yourselves of censorship on the internet. Like other arenas of censorship or authoritarian control, the best action is to remove the authoritarians; sometimes a more immediate and practical option is to circumvent the censorship applied on specific infrastructure. You defeat radio censorship by setting up stations beyond the authorities' control. Internet censorship is defeated by breaking the authorities' ability to monitor or control the connections of users. You need either mastery of the net you have or to operate a completely separate network.
Most of you simply want access to blocked forums, news, or social media and do not have the luxury of using a separate network. Your plan of action should be to use small and easy applications to exploit flaws in the barriers around you. After your initial breakout, access and install stronger tools so that you gain full, unrestricted ability to operate on the net. I suggest you start with easy apps like Lantern or Psiphon (or Psiphon-tunnel-core).
Expand your circumvention powers with more sophisticated VPN tools such as Outline and Wireguard VPN. These allow you to select specific servers which work best for your geographic location or provide higher broadband speeds. Many internet users located in restrictive environments are satisfied at this level of censorship circumvention. These tools open your access to the regular internet and world wide web.
A step up from using a service provided by someone else is to set up your own server and access it from you phone or desktop with either a VPN or SSH tunnel. A lot of authoritarian regimes have technology which enables them to find and attack VPNs, but they often will not attack SSH. SSH is generally considered to be a maintenance tool - something tech people use to access and do work on a server. The truth is that SSH may be used just like a VPN for access to the open internet as seen from the remote server.
There are very nice tools such as Streisand and Algo which you can use to easily set up remote servers as your own VPN provider. It is a beautiful thing to access the open net, without censorship, and know that you are in full control of the distant server providing your access through a VPN you set up yourself.
If you are seeking the kind of content which the regular internet platforms reject - most often relating to religion, politics, sexuality, or activities forbidden in most places, you will need tools which open your access to whole alternative networks. These darknets have multiple forms, but the most familiar one is the collection of sites accessed by Tor (The Onion Router). Onion sites cannot be accessed through regular networking, instead requiring use of multiple relays which use layers of encryption to anonymize sites and users.
You should avoid directly using Tor on your own phone or desktop computer. The entry and exit nodes are known, and you can attract surveillance onto yourself by connecting directly. A safer alternative is to use a VPN or SSH tunnel to a remote server you control, and set up the server to connect to Tor. Such a setup is not difficult:
- Get a cheap server or VPS.
- Install your favorite Linux operating system.
- Install Tor.
- Set up your SSH keys or VPN.
- Connect. Good luck and have fun.
Tor is not the only secure and anonymized alternative network. Freenet is the next largest darknet behind Tor. There are others too, even some which use forks (special alternative versions) of Tor or Freenet and operate completely separately.
These are the essentials of breaking out of your restricted and censored internet to enjoy the broader universe of content in th world. Freedom of expression is your right as a human. It works both ways, meaning you express yourself and you receive the expression of others. You argue your side and hear the arguments of other sides of the issues of the day. This article takes no sides except to insist that everyone gets to be in the venue for the big debate about where we people are to go next.